Giannis Sina Ugo Antetokounmpo is a well-known basketball player who plays professional basketball for the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He’s nicknamed the “Greek Freak” because of his ethnicity, size, strength, speed, and ball-handling skill. He is considered by many to be one of the best power forwards and European players of all time.
Antetokounmpo started playing basketball for the Filathlitikos young teams in Athens, where he was born and raised. Before being chosen for the 2013 NBA draft and being chosen by the Bucks with the 15th overall pick, he started competing for the senior team of the club in 2011. He became the first player in NBA history to conclude a regular season in the top 20 in each of the five major statistical categories points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks—while leading the Bucks in 2016–17. In 2017, he was named the Most Improved Player. Seven All-Star selections have gone to Antetokounmpo, who was chosen as an All-Star captain in 2019, 2020, and 2023 after leading the Eastern Conference in voting in each of these three years.
He is one of the NBA’s most decorated players, and won consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player Awards in 2019 and 2020, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players in National Basketball Association history to win two MVPs before he turned 26. In 2020, he was not only awarded MVP but also NBA Defensive Player of the Year, making history as the third player to win both titles in the same season, following Michael Jordan in 1988 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994.
Giannis was born on December 6, 1994, in Athens, Greece, to Nigerian immigrants. His mother was a high jumper, and his father had played soccer in Nigeria. They had left their firstborn son, Francis, with his grandparents when they had moved from Lagos three years prior. He was raised in the Athens neighborhood of Sepolia by solely Nigerian parents. Giannis and his elder brother Thanasis helped their parents, who were undocumented immigrants struggling to find employment, by selling watches, purses, and sunglasses on the streets. He began playing basketball in 2007.
Despite the fact that Giannis and three of his four brothers were born in Greece, they did not automatically gain Greek citizenship because Greek nationality law is based on jus sanguinis. Because of his parents’ ethnicity and the difference in their skin tones in the Greek community and his ignorance of the Yoruba or Igbo languages in the Nigerian community, he occasionally felt isolated growing up in Athens. He was basically stateless for the first eighteen years of his life, unable to leave the country due to his lack of official documentation from either Greece or Nigeria. On May 9, 2013, he was eventually granted Greek citizenship, which came less than two months before the NBA draft.
His official surname changed to Αντετoκούνμπο, which is the Greek transcription of Adetokunbo after he obtained Greek citizenship in 2013. This name was then a transliterated letter for letter and officially written as Antetokounmpo on his Greek passport. Ioannes has a Modern Greek variant called Giannis. His surname was difficult for many NBA fans to pronounce, so he was soon nicknamed the “Greek Freak”. Antetokounmpo is a dual citizen of Nigeria and the United States, having obtained his Nigerian passport in 2015. He has said that he embraces his African/Nigerian identity as well as his Greek cultural heritage and that he feels both Greek and Nigerian.
During the 2011-12 season, he was part of Filathlitikos’ senior men’s team in the semi-pro Greek B Basket League. Soon after turning eighteen, in December 2012, he signed a four-year contract with Spanish team CAI Zaragoza, which allegedly included buyouts from the NBA following each season. He had been wanted by a number of other elite European teams, such as Barcelona and Anadolu Efes.
In the Greek A2 League season of 2012–13, he averaged 22.5 minutes per game and shot 46.4% from the field (62.1% on two-point field goals), 31.3% from three-point range, and 72.0% from the free throw line. He averaged 9.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.0 blocks per game over a 26-game period. In addition, he was chosen by the coaches to play in the 2013 Greek League All-Star Game as a special participant. As a treat for the fans, the coaches allowed him to play in the game even though he was not chosen as an all-star.
Antetokounmpo declared himself eligible for the 2013 NBA Draft on April 28, 2013. The Milwaukee Bucks chose him 15th overall in the first round, which met his draft projections. On July 30, 2013, He went ahead and signed his rookie scale contract with the Bucks At the age of eighteen years and 311 days, Antetokounmpo became one of the youngest players in NBA history when he made his debut on October 13, 2013. In 77 games during his rookie season, he averaged 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.8 blocks. He recorded 23 double-figure scoring games and twice pulled down at least ten rebounds, both of which led to double-doubles.
He re-signed with the Bucks on December 15, 2020, agreeing to the largest-ever 5-year, $228 million contract in league history. He took part in the 2021 All-Star Game under James’ captaincy, scoring 35 points on a flawless 16-of-16 shooting from the field to help the team win 170–150. He also became the first player who wasn’t American to win All-Star MVP.
Antetokounmpo made his debut for Greece with the Greek Under-20 national team at the 2013 FIBA Europe Under-20 Championship in July 2013. Averaging 8.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 10 games, he led Greece to an 8-2 record and fifth-place overall finish. He placed second in defensive rebounds (7.0) and seventh in blocked shots at the end of the tournament.
Senior National Team
In 2014, Antetokounmpo made his debut for the senior men’s Greek national basketball team. With a 5-1 record, the team helped Greece take ninth place in the FIBA Basketball World Cup. He shot 45.8% from the field and averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in the six games.
Antetokounmpo was part of the Greek national team again for EuroBasket 2015. With a roster full of seasoned players—the majority of whom had won titles with their clubs in Europe—including Nikos Zisis, Ioannis Bourousis, and Vassilis Spanoulis, Greece was a strong contender for a medal after showing strong play in friendly matches.
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